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With cannabis legalized for adult-use in 11 states, for medical use in 33 states and a handful of states poised to end prohibition this November, it's safe to say that the American green rush is in full swing. As more states open up legal cannabis markets, longtime cannabis users are trying to turn their passion into profit, and serial entrepreneurs are looking to cannabis as the next big investment.
Just because you were able to acquire a state license or open a grow house, though, doesn't mean that your business will find a foothold in the burgeoning industry. That's where branding comes into play. While it might seem like slapping a weed leaf and a few marijuana puns on a bag of bud is enough to entice cannabis smokers, the cannabis business is hypercompetitive and branding is as important as any other industry.
With so much competition, confusing regulations and an evolving industry, it can be hard to figure out how to set your brand up for success. Luckily, we've been around the block a few times and picked out 6 of the most common legal marijuana business branding mistakes to avoid when starting - or expanding - your cannabis company.
One of the biggest mistakes that legal cannabis brands make is trying to pigeonhole their consumer base. Yes, cannabis culture is real and could be a big draw for a certain subset of cannabis users, but these days, marijuana is going mainstream - and your business should too.
Recent data suggests that consumers across age, gender, and political affiliation are buying more weed than ever, with senior citizens often leading the way. Although some of those people will undoubtedly want to see tie-dye tapestries and a Grateful Dead soundtrack at their local dispensary, plenty of others would rather not feel like they're stepping into their cousin's basement to buy bud. Not to mention, putting puns, weed leaves, or heavy stoner slang in your brand is far from original.
Of course, every situation is different, and if you come from generations of Humboldt farmers or toured with Willie Nelson, targeting tried and true stoners might be a perfect fit. However, if you want a broad customer base, make a brand that appeals to the general public instead of post-grad potheads.
Like any business, selling cannabis is all about standing out from the competition. Whether it is through social media, packaging, or the product itself, personality is paramount in differentiating your business.
Because cannabis is quickly going from an outlawed narcotic to a regulated product, the marijuana market is inundated with new competition. From rappers and rock stars to career investors and social media entrepreneurs, the weed industry is a constant struggle for engagement and attention. Instead of following the current market leaders, give your brand a unique perspective and voice that will carry over from your web presence and marketing to the product itself. Anyone can produce weed, but originality will sell it.
We live in a hyper-connected world and a working website is necessary for outreach, information, and acquisition. Coming from the black market cannabis industry, many newly minted legal marijuana brands have eschewed a traditional web presence for a focus on social media. Even though Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok are great ways to entice engagement, having a current and fully updated website with product info, availability, and even engaging content or blog posts will bolster your brand and give you alternate avenues to showcase what makes your company unique. A good website should be both a landing page for your brand and a jumping-off point that pushes consumers to follow further, both onto social media, and into dispensaries.
Whether it's on your website, social media, YouTube videos, or in-store displays, selling cannabis is a whole lot easier with some visual incentive. If you grow and sell flower, that means gorgeous, detailed shots of buds dripping in trichomes and sprawling photos of greenhouse grow rooms. If you specialize in concentrates, come up with creative ways to showcase the glistening extracts and oils your company produces.
Especially in states where local regulations do not allow customers to open packages before purchase, marketing material featuring professional-grade photos will set your brand apart and leave prospective customers salivating. Need some inspiration? Check out the social media pages of professional pot photographers like Erik "Nugshots" Christiansen and Chewberto.
Once you've identified your brand's point of view and voice, it is integral to make sure that style, substance, and perspective are cohesive across all platforms, both online and physical. Creating a brand that is easily identifiable from press releases, social media, or website is a surefire way to help acquire and keep loyal customers.
Be it a strong graphic design theme, a focus on certain aspects of the cannabis industry and culture, philanthropy or social justice, having a complete brand identity tethered to something beyond just flower or vape cartridges is an important part of standing out in the crowded marijuana marketplace. When using other platforms like Where's Weed, it's integral that your customers can pick you out from the competition.
Creating original content like blog posts, YouTube videos, and in-depth social media posts are a great way to attract interest to your company. If you're going to focus on content marketing, though, it is important to focus on quality over quantity. In the current era of constant in-your-face advertising and brand exposure, it is important to make sure that you are reaching your audience, but without inundating their emails, social feeds, and inboxes with constant spam. After all, nothing turns off loyal customers more than click bait advertising.
Do you have a few other secrets to ensure a marijuana brand thrives in the crowded legal cannabis market? Share your favorite tips in the comments below!